8A.6 Informing Local Extreme Event Thresholds with Climate Data

Wednesday, 28 June 2017: 9:45 AM
Mt. Mitchell (Crowne Plaza Tennis and Golf Resort)
Jeff Hicks, FernLeaf Interactive, Asheville, NC; and J. Fox

Municipalities the world over are taking strides to become more resilient to a changing climate. Often the impetus has been a catastrophic event such as riverine flooding, wildland fire, or coastal inundation due to hurricanes. The perception of a possible future event can also spur action if it can be effectively communicated.

When it comes to extreme events, many local planners are beginning to understand that what is “normal” is changing. They are sensing that there is an increased frequency and severity of these events. However, they are often not well versed in climate data science and lack the tools to quantify this change and understand the trajectory of extremes.

A public-private collaboration between FernLeaf Interactive and UNC Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) has created a series of tools to address this gap. Building on work our joint team performed for the US Climate Resilience Toolkit, FernLeaf Interactive and NEMAC have researched techniques for deriving indicators from climate data and communicating the issues in a way that leads to better decisions. We have recently developed techniques for rapidly interrogating climate and weather events to determine and communicate if there is a change in the frequency and severity of extreme events.

This presentation will examine climate data linked to three events - the Asheville, NC flood of 2004, the impact of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the Gatlinburg, TN wildfire of 2016. These case studies demonstrate the devastating effect of precipitation threshold events: heavy rains leading to flooding, and drought and late onset of fall leading to wildfires. Cultivating a better understanding of these critical thresholds can help municipalities proactively build resilience.

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